Going Down for the First Time
And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. —1 Samuel 15:7-9
Well, I have a little fear I need to acknowledge. I’m afraid of drowning. I mean, I should call it a phobia, really, because sometimes I even have bad dreams about it. Awake, I’m a good swimmer, but I have this fear of drowning.
People who study this tell you that a person can be sucked under by an undertow once or twice, and you put all of your energy into surfacing and getting a breath, but then you’re exhausted. And if you go down for the third time, you’re not coming up again. You lose your last bit of air and the lungs fill with water and the heart beats feebly for a moment—then life ends.
That sequence (and my fear) came to mind when I started studying the life of King Saul, ‘cause here’s a guy who goes down for the third time. He doesn’t come up. 1 Samuel tells the heart-wrenching story of Israel’s first king. I trust his life will teach us to avoid his choices. Today we will look at how Saul goes down for the first time, pulled by the undertow of disobedience.
The underlying lesson from Saul’s life is about repentance and about getting right with God. We need to locate in life the things that are not pleasing to Him and deal with them. Saul never repented; he kept repeating his error until there was no turning back.
In 1 Samuel 15, God sent Samuel to instruct Saul to attack and wipe out the Amalekites. God judged Amalek for total annihilation. Every person and every domestic animal was marked for death. But as the passage above makes clear, God’s specific instructions were not carried out. God said, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments”(1 Samuel 15:11). Saul disobeyed and he didn’t repent. He covered up, excused, blamed others, and felt embarrassed—but he never repented. He kept telling Samuel that the problem had to do with “your God,” refusing to take personal accountability for his own relationship with God. Saul was in mortal danger, but didn’t realize it. He thought he could always work things out with God but he was wrong. He had already gone under for the first time. —James MacDonald
· What are the signs of repentance in my own life?
· How do I know that I have not taken sin lightly before God?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are so patient with me! Forgive me for cutting corners and deciding not to pursue complete obedience. Forgive me for half-hearted allegiance to You. Bring me to that place where I realize that taking Your commands as suggestions I can edit to fit my own purposes puts me in great danger. Teach me again to fear You in a way that promotes wholehearted obedience. Deliver me from the undertow of sin. In Jesus’ name, Amen